As the United Nations condemns Israel for isolating Arafat, we wonder why this is being spun as a “setback to the peace process.” President Bush and others had previously made clear that the replacement of Arafat and the institution of Palestinian reforms was a prerequisite to restarting peace talks.
The problem Israel seeks to address is Arafat’s opposition to reforms. Times magazine quotes a senior Palestinian Authority official as saying: “The political picture has not changed. You still have Arafat refusing to accept that we need reforms.”
Israel also seeks to reverse Arafat’s unwillingness to stand up to groups like Hamas and Islamic Jihad who are opposed to any type of peace process. Indeed, Hamas leader Dr. Abdel Aziz Rantisi acknowledged that Israel was pressuring Arafat “to push him to crack down on the Islamic movement.”
Writing in The New York Times, William Safire (“Sharon’s Hard Choice” – September 23) opines:
“Because elected Palestinian leaders have shown unreadiness to combat the rebellion of groups like Hamas, Israel’s troops are forced to act against the extremist insurrection. Israel may have to fight to win that war against terror so that a vigorous neighboring state can be created led by reformist, peace-minded Palestinians.”
And Shimon Peres, interviewed by CNN’s Wolf Blitzer (September 22), declared:
“The solutions are very much in the hands of the Palestinians. If the Palestinian people really want to change the whole situation, they should put the Hamas and Jihad under their discipline… It cannot be that when it comes to shooting and killing, there is nobody to answer, there is nobody to talk with… What we want is either Arafat will show that he can control the situation or, alternatively, let somebody else do it. Today we have a situation where neither Arafat, nor anybody else, is in charge. They have to bring in law and order, because it affects our life and death…”
HonestReporting encourages members to monitor your local media to see how they are reporting Israel’s efforts to move forward Palestinian reform.
===== “REFORMERS ARE TRAITORS” =====
Not only do Arafat & Company appear deeply entrenched against reforms, but a violent opposition has surfaced as well:
This week, the Arafat-affiliated Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades issued a statement calling critics of Arafat “traitors who cooperate with Israel,” while threatening to kill any PA official who holds contacts with Israel over the establishment of a new leadership.
On Tuesday in Ramallah, these threats were carried out. Masked gunmen opened fire at the home of Nabil Amr, a former PA cabinet member who has openly challenged Arafat and called for wide-scale reforms in the PA. Palestinian sources told The Jerusalem Post they believed the attack was carried out by Fatah gunmen as a warning to PA officials who are trying to undermine Arafat’s rule.
Amr, who until recently served as PA minister for parliamentary affairs, recently published an article in London’s Arab newspaper blasting Arafat for having missed an historic opportunity by rejecting proposals at Camp David. “After two years of bloodshed, we are now calling for what we rejected,” he wrote. He also suggested that many senior PA officials are corrupt and responsible for the theft of public funds.
HonestReporting encourages members to monitor your local media to see if they are reporting on Palestinian violence against other Palestinians who favor reform.
===== CONTINUED ATTACKS? =====
Much ink has been spilled in the media about the position of various Palestinian factions vis-a-vis continued attacks against Israeli civilians within the pre-’67 borders. While Hamas and Islamic Jihad are known to endorse such attacks, the media often presents Arafat’s Fatah wing as opposed. Yet this week’s statement from the Fatah Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades declared:
“We want to emphasize at this point, our right to armed battle in every way possible and to strike at the Zionist targets and the Zionist territory [the land of the State of Israel].”
HonestReporting encourages members to monitor your local media to see how they present Fatah’s position vis-a-vis continued attacks against Israeli civilians within the pre-’67 borders.
===== INTIMIDATION OF THE MEDIA =====
In another revelation of the deeply-entrenched opposition to PA reforms, a senior aide to Palestinian Legislative Council Speaker Ahmed Qurei was arrested Monday by Jerusalem police for allegedly making threats to Jerusalem Post reporter Khaled Abu Toameh. Abu Toameh said that many Palestinian journalists “have also received from certain PA officials and their assistants.” Abu Toameh writes in the Jerusalem Post:
“Intimidation of journalists in the West Bank and Gaza Strip is not a new phenomenon but not all choose to tell the story… It becomes even more complicated and dangerous if, like myself, you are an Arab journalist working with the foreign or Israeli media. Then you are expected to be an ‘obedient servant’ or a ‘soldier’ in the war of propaganda. You are expected to tell the truth only if it sounds and looks convenient and appropriate. Otherwise, you could be risking your life.”
HonestReporting encourages members to monitor your local media for ongoing coverage of Palestinian intimidation of the media.